Continuing my Lent musings on the “Beatitudes” in Matthew 5 and Luke 6: They are addressed to or about those who are blessed, a word sometimes translated as “happy”, so, “Happy are the poor,” “happy are those who mourn” etc.
Thomas Jefferson wrote of the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I’ve rarely considered the pursuit of happiness to be a productive activity, at least not of the end apparently desired. In the beatitudes, happiness or blessedness comes from without, it is a divine gift. Luke’s “woes” to the rich and so on, suggest we can put ourselves outside of that state, but it seems to me that this state in the Bible is there to be experienced, to be encountered rather than chased after. Thoreau puts it well, I think: “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder …”
There is a connected thought (I don’t remember the origin) that trying to possess happiness is rather like pinning a butterfly to a card when its full beauty was to be seen in its natural and free environment, alighting at will on one’s shoulder perhaps.
Likewise happiness may be there, available, to be experienced but not owned. Happiness may be encountered not as the result of pursuit but of walking another path. Someone wrote: “Take time to be friendly – it is the road to happiness.” The pursuit of another’s happiness may be the way to our own.
I write in one of my songs of “the God to be found in the living of love.” There is something similar here. Many will attempt to define the God they believe in (or even the god they don’t believe in), to pin the divine to a display card, fixed there with dogma or derision.
Is God, the divine, the Other (words fail us) to be pursued and owned any more than happiness?
Take time to be friendly, live love, and happiness and what some of us know as a sense of the divine will surely find us.